Editor’s weekly column: Appeal hearing must be in public

Neil Pickford is the editor of the Harborough Mail
Neil Pickford is the editor of the Harborough Mail

One of the most attractive elements of the sometimes impenetrable planning system in this country is that members of the public get to have a say and have their voices heard.

Such was the case when Harborough District Council met in December to discuss the Co-op’s plans for a crematorium at Great Glen.

Read the Mail’s archive story from when the plan was thrown out: Delight for villagers as Great Glen crematorium plans are thrown out.

Many had a strong view opposing the plans for many different reasons and the democratic process was followed, with councillors rightly listening to the majority view and throwing the plans out.

What happened next comes as no surprise (see story on page 21 of this week’s Mail) to anyone with any basic knowledge of the planning process. Large organisations with money behind them simply refuse to accept what the local people want and appeal.

And in many cases, because such organisations can employ legal experts on vast sums of money, they win their argument.

This is far from democratic and a million miles away from the vision of localism outlined by Local Government Minister Eric Pickles, but it is the way things sometimes work.

However, for such a large organisation as the Co-op to ask for their appeal to be based purely on paper submissions and take the public out of the equation is underhand and simply undemocratic.

The Planning Inspectorate must accept this and hold a public inquiry into the crematorium appeal, so that the public can once again have their say and get their voices heard.

Column by Neil Pickford.

Follow Neil on Twitter, @NeilPickfordHM.